Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Amber Special Bitter Recipe

Audrey invited her coworkers over for a mini-Oktoberfest in our backyard. In preperation, she brewed a batch that most of them would enjoy, a low-ABV ESB-ish malty ale that looks a bit like an Oktoberfest. As you can tell from the drop in post-frequency, more of my time is being sucked up by Sapwood Cellars (we're reviewing the lease now). Someone is going to have to keep the taps filled at home!

Her plan was to ferment with White Labs 002 English Ale. The Fuller's strain is a quick fermenting and flocculating yeast perfect in low-gravity ales given its low attenuation (for example). Mild enough yeastiness that it shouldn't be off-putting to casual craft beer drinkers. When we stopped by the local homebrew store they were down to a single tube, enough of an excuse for a split-batch. The description of WLP013 (London Ale) with an "oakey ester character" appealed to Audrey, and I had never used it before. I have used the Wyeast equivalent in name and origin (WY1028) in batches of Courage Russian Imperial Stout, but not for anything similar to this.

The shop was also out of East Kent Goldings, so we swapped to Challenger for the aroma addition. Challenger isn't as orangey as EKG, but they have a wonderfully mellow herbaceous quality. Out of flaked wheat too, so we opted for torrified "puffed" wheat (something Dan Paquette of Pretty Things suggested to Nathan and I for bitters years ago). Torrified grains requires milling, but are gelatinized like flaked wheat and thus can be added directly to the mash without pre-cooking. It contributes a slightly toasty flavor too. Given substitutions for yeast, malt, and hops it likely isn't a surprise that I usually do my homebrew shopping online!

Fall Special Bitter: WLP002

Smell – Caramel maltiness leads. Clean, lightly estery, classic English without being minerally. Faint tea-like hop aroma.

Appearance – Mild haze in the copper/amber body. Terrific retention, thanks to the torrefied wheat. Wonderfully sticky, high- relief lacing.

Taste – Toastiness increases to support the caramel, and is joined by a stronger herbal hop-note. Well rounded malt flavor. Mild bitterness in the tail. No alcohol presence. Bare hint of diacetyl-butterscotch as it reaches room-temperature.

Mouthfeel – Medium body, medium carbonation. Just a hair of astringency in the finish.

Drinkability & Notes – Fits the Special Bitter metrics, but tastes maltier, more like a small ESB.

Changes for Next Time – It would be difficult to change it a little and improve it. A local maximum. Not my favorite English session ale, I tend to prefer brighter and hoppier, but I don’t think this would improve without fundamentally changing what it is.

Fall Special Bitter: WLP013

Smell – Hoppier, surprisingly. Might just be associating the slight citrusy (orange) ester profile of WLP013 with English hops. Caramel takes a backseat comparatively.

Appearance – Similar, although the head isn’t quite as long-lasting or sticky.

Taste – Not as direct as the other half. The malt isn’t as clear and fresh. The hops are more saturated and full tasting. Similar mellow bitterness.

Mouthfeel – A hair fuller, without the mild astringency. Carbonation is a bit higher as I poured this one second.

Drinkability & Notes – I’d be less-certain of what this one is. The esters feel more distracting in this malt-focused beer. I’d actually been enjoying this one more than the other, but side-by-side it doesn’t work as well as I’d though.

Changes for Next Time – I’d go even hoppier on this one to play-off the yeast. Double the Challenger!

October Special Bitter

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 12.0
IBU: 32.3
OG: 1.044
FG: 1.010
ABV: 4.4%
Brewhouse Efficiency: 69%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
80.0% - 15 lbs Crisp Floor-Malted Maris Otter
10.7% - 2 lbs Torrified Wheat
8.0% - 1.5 lbs Briess Caramel 40
1.3% - 0.25 lbs Briess Midnight Wheat

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 152F

Hops
-------
1.25 oz Nugget (Pellets, 13.6% AA) @ 60 min
1.00 oz Challenger (Pellet, 6.8% AA) @ 20 min Whirlpool

Yeast
-------
White Labs WLP002 English Ale
or
White Labs WLP013 London Ale

Water
-------

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
50
30
50
15
10
90

Notes
-------
Brewed 9/3/17

Chilled to 80F, left at 63F overnight to cool. In the morning, pitched WLP002 into FV2, WLP013 into FV1. Both fresh packs (May and June production). Shook to aerate, left at 63F to ferment. The WLP013 half was fermenting well by the next day, but the WLP002 half wasn't really rocking until day three.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Citra-Galaxy NEIPA: Bioconversion

There has been passionate discussion about hop bioconversion, especially in relation to NEIPA. Studies have shown geraniol in hops like Citra is converted during fermentation into citronellol when there is excess linalool present. But what does this mean for your beer? I talked to Stan Hieronymus when planning an experiment based on his suggestion to use other linalool and geraniol rich hops to mimic Citra. He directed me to a more recent study from the same team that suggested the thiol 4-MSP (aka 4-MMP) has a synergistic effect with these terpenes. Some hops (e.g., Citra, Centennial) contain linalool, geraniol, and 4-MSP and thus can be used as a single hop to create a fantastic IPA.

Chinook and Nugget hops.The question I set out to answer was whether the same flavors can be achieved piecemeal by adding individual hops to fill in the background flavors and then dry hop with fancy hops to lend varietal character. It is a practical consideration because hops like Citra and Galaxy are in short supply, and often cost four times the price of less-sexy varieties. If we can only get our hands on a couple boxes of Citra for Sapwood Cellars' first year, how do we maximize the amount of Citra-forward IPA brewed?

The problem with blindly relying on the science regarding individual compounds is that you can miss the IPA through the hops. I selected Chinook (geraniol), Nugget (linalool), and Eureka (4-MSP). However, each contributes a variety of other aromatics, how would these come through?

Citra and Galaxy Hops.Most of the bioconversion happens to terpenes extracted on the hot side, so how important is a mid-fermentation dose of dry hops? At the end of the combined boil I added Chinook, Nugget, and Eureka for the whirlpool. On day two, I dry hopped one fermentor with more Chinook and Nugget and the other with Citra and Galaxy. I then keg-hopped both with Citra/Galaxy in stainless steel hop filters (rather than the nylon knee-highs I'd been using).

I hooked the two kegs up in the kegerator without paying attention to which beer was on which tap. I was able to identify them almost immediately with my first carbonated sample a week later. I thought that was enough to skip the triangle test and go straight to preference. I brought a growler of each to the DC Homebrewer’s August meeting. There were lots of strong opinions (I didn't tell the homebrewers what I was testing, but asked them to focus on the hop character). With 11 votes to 8, the beer with Citra and Galaxy as the first dry hop addition won, but not by as much as I would have guessed. Here are select comments that each elicited:

Cheaper Hops - Nugget/Chinook: West Coast, spicy, subtle, vegetal, fruitier, aromatic (several), "Galaxy/Mosaic," more bitter (several), minerally, crisper.

Cheater Hops - Citra/Galaxy: Piney, fruity, juicy, berry, fresh orange, hoppier, sweeter, restrained, rounder, more dry hop, more aromatic.

These results were of the beers after less than two weeks in the keg. While freshness is essential for NEIPA given their sensitivity to oxygen, a little extra time post-fermentation can be beneficial. I’ve gotten a few emails from brewers disappointed with the “juiciness” of their beer a few days after kegging. It often takes time for the yeast (which is coated in hop compounds) and lupulin to settle out and clear the way for those juicy flavors. In this case I also found the extraction of the keg hops took a couple weeks, with the Cheaper Hop half tasting more like Citra and Galaxy now a month after kegging.

Milled barley and flaked oats.I think this experiment contradicts the old adage that dry hopping only effects aroma. Flavor and aroma are inextricably linked. Dry hopping can even decrease IBUs, or it can add bitterness depending on how much iso-alpha is in the beer already. There are few simple rules in brewing!

For my tastes too much maltiness distracts from the hops in NEIPAs. I don’t care for the full Maris Otter crackery flavor that some examples have. For this batch I started with a similar malt bill to my previous NEIPA, but subbed in Golden Promise for about 2/3 of the base malt. Golden Promise is softer than some of the other British base malts, and I thought it worked well here to increase the perception of maltiness without distracting.

Cheaper Hops

Smell – Nice mix of bright citrus juice (orange) and more classic Pacific-Northwest hop-bag resin. Has some of that bold Citra/Galaxy tropical, but it is a component rather than a feature. Toasty notes, nice depth addition from the Golden Promise.

Appearance – Maximum haze without muddiness. Slightly darker than some of my previous batches, which likely increases the appearance of haze. Nice head, but retention isn't remarkable.

Taste – Falls a little short of full-on NEIPA, lacking that wonderful saturated juicy hop flavor. Although the fullness of the hop character has increased while sitting on the keg hops. Pineapple, orange candy, and dank. Slightly sharp bitterness, a bit lupulin bite in the throat.

Mouthfeel – Smooth, but a little chalky in the finish.

Drinkability & Notes – A nice solid NEIPA with some character that might appeal to the cross-over West Coast drinker. Certainly nice to be able to get that good an IPA from 2/3 inexpensive hops, but it isn’t fooling anyone.

Cheater hops on the right, Cheaper hops on the left.

Cheater Hops

Smell – Similar notes of pineapple and orange, but without an undercurrent of resin. Not an especially amped nose compared recent batches with London III, lacking the oomph of my favorite NEIPAs. Perhaps the malt getting in the way?

Appearance – Identical.

Taste – It has that saturated fancy hop (4-MSP) flavor. Bright, fruity, really juicy. Nice toasty-malty note in the finish, lingering with just a touch of resin. Firm bitterness. The aftertaste is where I really get the Citra-Galaxy rounded tropical fruit compared to the Cheaper hops.

Mouthfeel – Seems slightly crisper, less chalky.

Drinkability & Notes – I’m a sucker for that full fruity flavor with a slight weirdness from the hops. Drinkable and wonderfully hoppy. The hot-side additions of less expensive hops really worked in this batch!

Changes for Next Time – Clearly that early dry hop addition isn’t all about bio-conversion. I’ll be focusing my linalool and geraniol additions at the end of the boil and 4-SMP hops at that early dry hop.

Running the wort into a BrewBucket.Recipe

Batch Size: 5.50 gal
SRM: 3.8
IBU: 78.1
OG: 1.060
FG: 1.016
ABV: 5.8%
Final pH: 4.52
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
37.6% - 5 lbs Simpsons Golden Promise
22.5% - 3 lbs Rahr 2-row Brewer's Malt
21.1% - 2.8 lbs Quaker Quick Oats
18.8% - 2.5 lbs Weyermann Carafoam

Mash
-------
Mash In - 60 min @ 154F

Hops
-------
1.00 oz Nugget (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ 15 min
2.00 oz Chinook (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min
2.00 oz Nugget (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min
1.00 oz Eureka (Pellets, 18.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 30 min

Cheaper Hops Option:
3.00 oz Chinook (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2
3.00 oz Nugget (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Cheater Hops Option:
3.00 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2
3.00 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Both
1.50 oz Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) @ Keg Hop
1.50 oz Galaxy (Pellets, 14.00% AA) @ Keg Hop

Water
-------
5 g Calcium Chloride @ Mash
4 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash
.5 tsp Lactic Acid @ Mash

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
90
90
90
10
5
45

Yeast
-------
SafAle S-04 English Ale

Notes
-------
Scaled to be brewed as either half of the batch.

Brewed 8/6/17 with Collin

Mash pH initially 5.55 pre-acid. Acid brought it down to 5.26. Around 5.4 if it had been cooled.

Whirlpool hops added right at flame-out.

Used ice to get it down to 70F. 5 gallons into each fermentor. Shook to aerate and pitched S-04 directly. Left at 64F to ferment.

Up to ~68F internal by 24 hours.

After two days down to 1.024 (60% AA) added 3 oz Nugget/Chinook to FV1, and 3 oz each Galaxy/Citra to FV2. Fermentation slowing down. Increased ambient temperature to 68F.

8/16/17 Kegged both. ~4 gallons of FV1, 4.5 of FV2. Quad-flushed. 1.5 oz each of Citra and Galaxy in the new screens, weighted with marbles.

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Backyard Gruit: Alehoof and Yarrow

What my "lawn" looks like, there's some grass!Why brew a light, refreshing “lawnmower” ale to be enjoyed after yard work when you can brew a batch flavored with lawnmower clippings? Well not literally, but this is a batch of sour beer flavored with ingredients foraged from what would otherwise be clipped. A beer that captures the aroma of summertime in my backyard!

In April, when I posted a photo of my North-Eastern Australian IPA sitting on my lawn, Caleb Levar (I tried to send him bottle dregs to culture in 2011) pointed out that the ground cover with vibrant purples flowers was a brewing herb:

I met Carlos, my brewing partner for the day, back in February when Blane invited us to brew (with juniper, smoke, and kveik). Carlos is an enthusiastic forager, and talked about a variety of exciting projects like malting his own quinoa for a 100% quinoa beer! We’d been looking for an excuse to brew together again since, so this was perfect!

Alehoof, ground ivy, creeping charlie...I hadn’t heard of ground ivy beer previously, but in addition to being an invasive species, it is a historic English/saxon brewing herb (often called alehoof). Brewing herbs growing wild is a great argument for lawn as a meadow in addition to avoiding the use of fertilizer and herbicide! Crushed, alehoof smells a bit like parsley crossed with arugula, green but not grassy, a little peppery. That flavor is rich in terpenes, phenols, and vitamin C. The list of volatiles in this study for Glechoma hederacea is so long that it is difficult to pick out what compounds are responsible for it's flavor. However, it contains many of the terpenes in hops including important aroma molecules: humulene, caryophyllene, linalool, and traces of myrcene and geraniol.

Yarrow growing on Cape Cod.When I visited my parents a couple months later, my father showed off the yarrow in his garden on Cape Cod (a few feet from where my mead is buried). Another classic brewing herb! I had read that yarrow loses its most interesting aromatics during drying, so this was a rare opportunity to try it fresh. β-pinene, linalool, and β-caryophyllene are found in yarrow and hops, so another chance of a beer with flavors reminiscent of a wet hopped ale? I actually have a keg on wine-barrel solera still sitting in my basement with fresh yarrow from Spruce on Tap that I purchased when I brewed my India Pale Gruit... I should probably pull a sample.

For the alehoof  usage-rate I referenced Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers (3 oz dried/12 quarts per roughly three gallons), and Growler Magazine (6–8 quarts per 5 gallons). Both sounded like a lot of an herb I'd never tasted in a beer, so I went easy with two quarts in 11 gallons at the start of the boil. We split the yarrow adding the leaves with the alehoof, and the flower heads and stems in the whirlpool treating it like aroma hops. Again though, 2 oz in 11 gallons is less than most recipes I could find.

Carlos brought a bag of pink salt from Maras, an Incan salt production facility still in use today. A stream of subterranean brine in diverted into shallow pools and allowed to evaporate. The light reddish color comes from traces of iron. Iron isn't a positive beer additive, but using ancient salt is romantic with traditional herbs. Salt is a classic part of gose, and can help meld bitterness and acidity (as in a salad).

We planned to split the batch, but Carlos had a flight to Peru a week after brewing to cover between head brewers at a small brewery. I revived Right Proper's House Lacto culture (which did good work in my lone qunioa beer) and pitched the other half with GigaYeast's Sour Cherry Funk. I didn't have a plan for that pack, so this seemed like a good test. It is still in the fermentor, this tasting is of the Right Proper half.

Backyard Gruit-Gose

Smell – Slight spicy and herbaceous aroma. There are some green notes that with the knowledge of what is in there reminds me of mowing. Luckily it doesn’t remind me of boiled greens. Not an overpowering or aggressive gruit/herbal character, allowing room for grainy maltiness to come through.

The finished gruit-gose with ground ivy!Appearance – Glowing yellow, cloudy. Dense white head. Better head retention than my previous efforts with this culture. Still not fantastic, but enough to snap a few pictures in the backyard. Good lacing.

Taste – Big lactic acidity, tangy. Minimal sweetness and bitterness. There are herbal notes, but also a citrusy (orange and lemon) character I usually associate with lightly dry-hopped sours.

Mouthfeel – Light and bright. This is the second sour in a row on tap that doesn’t seem to be getting as carbonated as the other taps despite the same pressure. Could be a little bubblier.

Drinkability & Notes – The sourness is at the high end of what I’m looking for. The pH reading was 3.03, but it doesn't taste quite that sour. Otherwise refreshing, just not the sort of beer I naturally gravitate to for a second pour.

Changes for Next Time – I’m satisfied with the experiment. The fresh herbs do lend a fresher flavor than dried herbs, less concentrated and distinct. Doubling the herbs would create a more “obvious” flavor, but as a beer on tap subtlety is a virtue. I’ll wait for the other half to see how it compares with age before making final proclamations on the process.

Yarrow leaves and flower-head.Recipe

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 3.2
IBU: 0.0
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.009
ABV: 4.9%
Final pH: 3.03
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Mins

Fermentables
-----------------
90.0% - 18 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
10.0% - 2 lbs Briess Red Wheat Malt


Mash
-------
Mash In - 60 min @ 153F

Hops
-------
None

Other
-------
3.50 oz Ground Ivy @ 60 mins
1.00 oz Yarrow Leaves @ 60 mins
0.50 oz Peruvian Salt (Mines of Maras) @ 15 min
1.00 oz Yarrow Flowers/Stems @ Whirlpool

Water
-------
Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
50
30
50
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
Right Proper House Lacto Blend

Notes
-------
Brewed 7/8/17 with Carlos

Made a 3.5L starter with the Right Proper House Lacto culture that had been sitting in my fridge for... six months. Seemed to start up well.

Ground ivy harvested from the backyard that morning. Yarrow harvested three days prior on Cape Cod.

Chilled to 80F and pitched RP Lacto (left at 80F). Other half left at 65F for 6 hours to drop a bit cooler before pitching Cherry Funk (left at 65F).

7/22/17 Racked the Giga half to secondary (1.012, mildly tart).

7/26/17 Kegged the Right Proper half with 3 oz of table sugar to carbonate (1.009, firm acidity). Seal was not good, didn't hold pressure.

8/6/17 Moved the Right Proper half to the keggerator, fixed the lid, and attached to gas. Final pH 3.03... not confident in that reading.

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Boiling greens in wort.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Tropical Stout with Muscovado

Getting ready to add the muscavado sugar.When I tell people I brewed a Tropical Stout, most of them assume that means I added tropical fruit and/or hops to a standard stout. On the contrary, this is a style originating in the tropics (specifically the Caribbean and Southeast Asia). The most widely available examples are Lion Stout, Dragon Stout, and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout from Jamaica. Prior to the release of the 2015 BJCP Guidelines the style was rolled into Foreign Export Stout with the drier/bitterer stouts brewed in England and Ireland.

When my friend Scott (this Scott, not that Scott) noticed Topical Stout wasn’t on my list of styles brewed he suggested that we split a batch. Like daiquiris, sweetness and rummy flavors can go with warm weather, so it seemed like a version on the lower-gravity-end might be a good beer for the end of summer!

Ashton Lewis, Gordon Strong, and Me at the BYO Boot Camp panel.We started with Gordon Strong’s recipe from his BYO Style Profile (referencing the similar recipe in his Modern Homebrew Recipes). We used Irish Ale yeast because I had a slurry on hand harvested from my Guinness Anachronism Draught. Warm-fermented lager is classic for authentic Tropical Stouts because most of the breweries primarily brew lagers. We replaced the rather subtle turbinado sugar the recipe called for with more characterful dark muscovado. Increased proportion of simple sugars causes yeast to produce more esters so that may add to some of the traditional fruitiness of the style.

I’ve found that I get the best pours from the stout tap when carbonating and serving with ~20 PSI of beer gas. However, it can take a few weeks to really get that great creamy head given the low partial-pressure of carbon dioxide. To speed this up I attached a .5 micron carbonation stone with a foot of tubing to the gas side of this keg. A carb stone releases tiny gas bubbles which rise up through the beer, increasing surface area and boosting absorption. The key is to start the pressure low, increasing it by a few PSI a couple times a day. That ensures that the bubbles keep coming slowly, speeding up carbonation. There are other methods for using a stone, but this is easy and doesn’t waste gas. The only drawback is that you can’t purge the head space easily, so I just pushed in through the stone and vented a few times. To get around this you can also make (or buy) a carbonating keg lid that doesn't occupy the gas post. The result was a creamy head in about 10 days rather than three weeks!

Carb stone, before filling the keg.

Caribbean Stout

That cascade...Smell – The classic problem with beer gas, the nose is closed without much CO2 in solution to rise up carrying aromatics. What is there is nice, freshly milled roasted barley and coffee ice cream with Hershey’s syrup. No big fruitiness or rum/molasses notes.

Appearance – Head is stupendous! Creamy, off-white, and super-long-lasting. Black body, with a red underline at the bottom of the glass.

Taste – Flavor is similar but bigger than the aroma. Fresh roasted malt, mocha with a finish of date-sugar. Even a little vanilla or brownie batter. Sweet without being too cloying. Just enough bitterness to reset the palate in the finish.

Mouthfeel – Coating, rounded, smooth. Perfect!

Drinkability & Notes – Despite the provenance, this one hasn’t been drinking quickly this summer. The sweetness and richness just don’t call out for a second pour when the weather is this hot.

Changes for Next Time – I’m glad the gravity ended up a little low, but for a version closer to the guidelines it’d require better efficiency and a lower mash temperature for higher attenuation.

Recipe

Batch Size: 12.00 gal
SRM: 43.7
IBU: 33.8
OG: 1.064
FG: 1.023
ABV: 5.4%
Final pH: 4.53
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74%
Boil Time: 90 Mins

Fermentables
----------------
75.5% - 20 lbs Crisp Floor-Malted Maris Otter
3.8% - 1.0 lbs Weyermann Carafa Special III
3.8% - 1.0 lbs Muntons Roasted Barley
1.9% - 0.5 lbs Crisp Black
1.9% - 0.5 lbs Briess Crystal 120L
1.9% - 0.5 lbs Chateau Special B
1.9% - 0.5 lbs Bairds Chocolate Malt
9.4% - 2.5 lbs India Tree Dark Muscovado

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 158F

Hops
------
4.00 oz East Kent Goldings (Pellets, 6.00% AA) @ 60 min

Water
-------
6.00 g Calcium Chloride
5.00 g Chalk

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
100
75
50
16
10
140

Other
-------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins

Yeast
-------
WY1084 Wyeast Irish Ale

Notes
-------
Brewed 5/28/17 with Scott.

CaCl added to the mash tun before the malt. 1 cup of super-saturated chalk water (~5 g of chalk) added to the mash tun to try to raise the mash pH, didn't get much higher than it started, 5.25.

2.5 lbs of India Tree Dark Muscovado Sugar added at the start of the boil. ~14% by extract (Gordon's recipe is ~18% turbinado).

Undershot gravity a bit, was aiming for 1.070.

Hop pellets in 400 micron screen.

Chilled to 70, placed in fridge set to 64F for a couple hours before pitching a cup of thick slurry from low OG Guinness.

Maintained 64F beer temperature for 3 days, then up to 66F.

6/2/17 Moved out of fridge and allowed to warm to 70F to ensure fermentation finishes up. Currently: 1.028 (56% AA, 4.7% ABV)

6/7/17 Still 1.028... pitched a rehydrated pack of US-05.

6/10/17 Down to 1.023 (64% AA, 5.4% ABV), hopefully still dropping.

6/16/17 Nope, finished. Kegged.

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Never settle...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Liquor, Barrel, and Wood-Aged Brown Ale

Removing the head from a barrel.Most of the events I do are 30-60 minutes, perfect for talking (ideally including questions from the audience). A few years ago I taught intro-to-homebrewing classes for LivingSocial, I quickly learned that 150 minutes was too long for a lecture alone. I added an extract brewing pantomime to demonstrate the key steps in wort production, brought ingredients to taste and smell, and loaded up with slides with photos to hold the audience's attention.

When Brew Your Own asked me to present on sour beers and barrels for their Boot Camp series, I knew I had to come up with ways to make it interactive to fill six hours! Obviously some of the time is me talking and flipping through slides and answering questions, but I wanted to mix in drinking and action. I've honed the sessions in Burlington and Santa Rosa, and I'm looking forward to the next two November in Indianapolis and February in San Diego!

Sour Beer Techniques
   Overview of wort production for sour beers
   Microbe selection, propagation, harvesting
   Capturing wild microbes
   Tasting and blending teas, tinctures, juices, wines, meads etc. into sours
   Tasting and blending three of my homebrewed sours
   Working with me on a custom sour beer recipe

Barrel and Wood Aging
   Discussion of barrel-aging and wood-aging techniques
   Tasting and blending wood teas with commercial beer
   Evaluating and inspecting a barrel from a local brewery (thanks FOAM and Rare Barrel)
   Hands-on leak repair tools and techniques
   Installing a stainless steel sample nail
   Removing and reseating the barrel's head
   Tasting a batch split between barrel – liquor – wood

Speaking of which, I thought I'd post a mini-tasting of that split batch for those of you who can't make it to the Boot Camps. This batch is a somewhat extra-hefty 15 gallon batch of English brown: infused with malt whiskey from Balcones Distilling, aged in a 5 gallon Balcones malt whiskey barrel, and aged on a medium toast American oak honeycomb from Black Swan Cooperage!

Big Brown Barrel-Off

From left to right: Barrel, Liquor, OakAppearance, all three look nearly identical. Deep dark brown with a three finger tan head. Beautiful lacing, although it appears too quickly as the head drops in just five minutes.

Balcones Malt Whiskey Barrel (pH 4.38)

Integrated slightly spicy oak and spirit. Brighter than the liquor, less dark fruit and sugar. Notes of toast and light roast coffee come through from the malt much better. Fresh plums. Drier than the liquor infused thanks to the oak tannins. A more balanced beer that I could consider drinking more than 6 ounces of in a sitting. Likely could have sat in the barrel longer if I knew I was going to sit on it for a year.

Balcones Malt Whiskey Infused (pH 4.32)

When this beer was young it was really raw and boozy. Both classes had sizable contingents that guessed this was from the whiskey barrel. It is still potent with a mild ethanol warming, but it has rounded out with dark sugar and caramelized plum joining the rich malt. Still a little dry, but age has really brought the flavors together. Nice vanilla as it warms, almost bourbon-soaked chocolate brownies.

Medium Toast American White Oak HoneycombBlack Swan Honeycomb Oak Aged (pH 4.42)

Had and continues to have an off-putting phenolic character that reminds me of cheap wood. On the edge of plastic. The flavor is bland and the oak again dominates. I’ve had some wonderful results from oak aging beer with cubes, staves, and spheres… I’m not adding honeycomb to that list. It didn’t appear to be well toasted (in fact none of the sample from their mixed pack appeared well toasted).

An interesting comparison to see what stays the same and what is different. I've had good luck with barrel-alternatives, but I've gone back to cubes after the results from the honeycomb.

The first two were kegged when the third half went into the barrel.Recipe

Batch Size: 15.00 gal
SRM: 22.1
IBU: 38.3
OG: 1.065
FG: 1.010
ABV: 7.2%
Final pH: Above
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 65 min

Fermentables
-----------------
65.2% - 23 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
22.7% - 8 lbs Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark
3.5% - 1.25 lbs - Briess Flaked Soft Red Wheat
2.8% - 1 lbs Simpsons Dark Crystal
2.1% - .75 lbs Weyermann Caramunich II
2.1% - .75 lbs Weyermann Chocolate Wheat
1.4% - .50 lbs Dingemans Mroost 1400 MD (De-Bittered Black)

Mash
-------
Mash In - 30 min @ 156F

Hops
-------
2.75 oz Columbus (Pellets, 13.00% AA) @ 60 min

Water
-------
14 g Calcium Chloride

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
110
140
50
15
10
90

Other
------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 mins

Yeast
-------
WLP023 White Labs Burton Ale

Notes
-------
Yeast harvested from 2 gallon batch Audrey brewed three weeks prior.

9/10/16 Brewed

All filtered DC tap water with 14 g of CaCl. Minimal sparge with about 4 gallons of cold water.

Chilled to 80F with ground water, left at 65F for 12 hours to chill the rest of the way before pitching.

9/27/16 Kegged 4 gallons plain with 4 oz of Balcones Malt Whiskey, 4 gallons with one medium toast Black Swan White Oak Honeycomb (brief boil, decanted), and into a fresh Balcones Malt Whisky barrel (stopper had come off during shipping - smelled great still).

10/21/16 Kegged the barrel-aged version, nice strong spirit character.

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Burlington Boot Camp, not Santa Rosa obviously.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Azacca Brett Saison - Keg Transfers

As I continue to work on opening Sapwood Cellars (lease negotiation ongoing!!), Audrey has started to pick up the homebrewing slack. After her Dark Belgian Wheat she brewed Wit Lightning inspired by Belgian wit, but with citrusy hops (Azacca) replacing the spices. I took half of the batch and pitched Omega Labs C2C American Farmhouse and dry hopped with more Azacca to make a lightly funky saison... Saison Lightning.

Despite some fancier primary fermentors with spigots (Ss Brew Bucket and Speidel), my post-fermentation-transfer game is basic. I do most of my racking via gravity and auto-siphon. It gives me control, and I haven’t had issues with oxidation on NEIPAs and other oxygen-sensitive styles as long as I purge the keg. Open transfers aren't really an option for carbonated beer though.

I wanted to combine Brett fermentation under-pressure and dry hopping. I did the first dose in primary to allow time for bioflavoring, but I wanted the Brett to have time to work before the final dose of hops to create developed Brett and fresh hops aromatics. My solution was to naturally keg-condition for six weeks and then jump the carbonated beer to a purged serving keg containing bagged and weighted hops.

When transfering carbonated beer between kegs, the goal is to have slightly more pressure on the filled keg than the receiving keg so that the beer is gently pushed from one keg to the other without the beer foaming. This is essentially the same method as counter-pressure filling a growler or bottle only on a larger scale.

Jumping from the carbonating keg (right) to the serving keg (left).

Process:
Step 1: Purge and then pressurize the receiving keg to the same pressure as the filled and chilled keg (15 PSI in this case).

Step 2: Connect the filled keg to a tap and dump the first pint to remove most of the sediment.

Step 3: Connect the two kegs from out-to-out post via a jumper line (a short length of tubing connecting two liquid quick disconnects).

Step 4: Connect the gas line to the filled keg to and increase the pressure slightly (17 PSI in this case).

Step 5: Connect a spunding valve to the receiving keg and set it to the same pressure as you pressurized the keg earlier (15 PSI).

Step 6: Wait for the transfer to complete (approximately five minutes).

Step 7: Disconnect the jumper line, gas line, and spunding valve.

Step 8: Connect the serving keg to the gas and serving line and enjoy reduced sediment beer!

This is also a great technique if you travel with kegs and want sediment free beer so yeast isn’t knocked into suspension during transit.

A glass of Brett saison dry hopped with Azacca.Saison Lightning

Smell – Varied aromatics of herbal lemongrass, apples, and pepper. Brett is subtle, behind the hops. Hops aren’t grassy or vegetal despite extended contact with the pellets in the keg.

Appearance – Slight haze, but overall it is a bright beer. Yellow gold. The white head is thick, but drops after a few minutes.

Taste – Similar to the nose with bright-integrated citrus notes on a peppery saison backdrop. The finish has a hint of earthy Brettiness. Deceptively complex because it is easy to drink. Mellow hop bitterness. Slight perceived sweetness thanks to the citrus character and slightly higher than expected final gravity.

Mouthfeel – Thin and crisp without harshness and tannic bite. Carbonation is a little low for a saison.

Drinkability & Notes – Crushable hoppy saison, has been a perfect beer to have on tap for summer. The hops cut through the Brett and everything works together.
Held up well in the keg so far (kicked the next day), which I assume means I didn’t introduce much oxygen when I jumped it over.

Changes for Next Time – Not much to change for this, although I'd lower the mash temperature if I was planning on the same timeline again. Could have given it another couple of months in the keg to condition before going onto the keg hops for a little more Brett character.

Recipe

Batch Size: 5.75 gal
SRM: 3.4
IBU: 16.1
OG: 1.049
FG: 1.007
ABV: 5.5%
Final pH: 4.35
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78%
Boil Time: 90 Mins

Fermentables
----------------
65.0% - 6.5 lbs Dingemans Pilsen
25.0 % - 2.5 lbs Flaked Wheat
7.5 % - .75 lbs Dingemans Cara 8
2.5 % - .25 lbs Weyermann Acidulated

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 154F

Hops
-------
1.00 oz Saaz (Pellet, 2.75% AA) @ 10 min
1.50 oz Azacca (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Whirlpool 15 min
2.00 oz Azacca (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Brew Day Dry Hop
3.00 oz Azacca (Pellet, 15.00% AA) @ Keg Hop

Water
-------
5.50 g Calcium Chloride

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
90
110
50
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
OYL-217 Omega C2C American Farmhouse

Notes
-------
4/22/17 Brewed by Audrey

No sparge. Mash pH measured at 5.24. Collected 7 gallons of 1.039 runnings. A bit lower gravity than expected, extended boil to 90 minutes.

Chilled to 69F. No starter, pack less than a month old. 2 oz of brew day Azacca.

Left at 70F to ferment. Warmed up to nearly 80 for days 4-7. Then the weather cooled off.

5/6/17 Kegged with 3.75 oz of table sugar and was left to condition (no extra dry hops yet). A bit less attenuation than expected.

6/13/17 Moved the keg to the fridge.

6/16/17 Jumped to a freshly purged keg with more Azacca weighted with marbles and bagged in a knee high.

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